No guns allowed in our churches, say Georgia Episcopal bishops

(Photo: REUTERS/Tami Chappell)A Glock handgun available in a raffle promotion is shown at Adventures Outdoors in Smyrna, Georgia, October 25, 2012. The store promoted the raffle on billboards as a "Vote. Win a rifle." but owner Jay Wallace has stated that all Georgia residents are eligible to enter.

The Episcopal bishops in Georgia have said no firearms will be allowed in churches or property under their oversight in the U.S. state.

Their directives were in response to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signing on April 24 the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 the name of a law expands where guns may be carried within the state and that takes effect July 1.

The law can allow for the carrying of firearms into place such as churches and bars in which alcohol is consumed.

Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright and Diocese of Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase made know their views in letters to clergy, wardens and ministry heads in their dioceses.

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Places of worship may allow the carrying of weapons, but permission must be granted by the ecclesiastical authority which, in the case of the Episcopal Church, is the diocesan bishop.

Benhase wrote that in his judgment "firearms of any kind have no place in any of our church buildings."

He said, "If I am requested by a congregation to grant them permission, as the laws provides but does not require, I will not grant such permission.

"In my judgment, the only people who are appropriately allowed to carry firearms in any of our church buildings are law enforcement officers who are on duty at the time."

Bishop Wright said, "The Safe Carry Protection Act makes it unlawful for even a licensed gun holder to carry firearms into 'a place of worship, unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders,'" wrote Bishop Wright.

He noted, "While the new law would permit churches to allow firearms in their buildings and on their property, the Diocese of Atlanta will not do so."

Wright said that illegally bringing a gun into a house of worship will be considered a misdemeanor with a $100 fine. On-duty law enforcement officers will be exempt from the restriction.

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